Onset, Progression, and Plateau of Skeletal Lesions in Fibrous Dysplasia and the Relationship to Functional Outcome


  • The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest.


Most lesions in FD and their attendant functional disability occur within the first decade; 90% of lesions are present by 15 years, and the median age when assistive devices are needed is 7 years. These findings have implications for prognosis and determining the timing and type of therapy.

Introduction: Fibrous dysplasia of bone (FD) is an uncommon skeletal disorder in which normal bone is replaced by abnormal fibro-osseous tissue. Variable amounts of skeletal involvement and disability occur. The age at which lesions are established, the pace at which the disease progresses, if (or when) the disease plateaus, and how these parameters relate to the onset of disability are unknown. To answer these questions, we performed a retrospective analysis of a group of subjects with FD.

Materials and Methods: One hundred nine subjects with a spectrum of FD were studied for up to 32 years. Disease progression was assessed in serial 99Tc-MDP bone scans by determining the location and extent of FD lesions using a validated bone scan scoring tool. Physical function and the need for ambulatory aids were assessed.

Results: Ninety percent of the total body disease skeletal burden was established by age 15. Disease was established in a region-specific pattern; in the craniofacial region, 90% of the lesions were present by 3.4 yr, in the extremities, 90% were present by 13.7 yr, and in the axial skeleton, 90% were present by 15.5 yr. Twenty-five of 103 subjects eventually needed ambulatory aids. The median age at which assistance was needed was 7 yr (range, 1–43 yr). The median bone scan score for subjects needing assistance was 64.3 (range, 18.6–75) compared with 23.1 (range, 0.5–63.5) in the unassisted subjects (p < 0.0001). Among subjects needing assistance with ambulation, 92% showed this need by 17 yr.

Conclusions: The majority of skeletal lesions and the associated functional disability occur within the first decade of life. The implication is that the window of time for preventative therapies is narrow. Likewise, therapeutic interventions must be tailored to where the patient is in the natural history of the disease (i.e., progressive disease [young] versus established disease [older subjects]). These findings have implications for prognosis, the timing and type of therapy, and the development of trials of new therapies and their interpretation.